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When to call the hospital or midwife in early labour

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Emily Stormonth Darling

As a midwife, I often get asked when the right time to call the hospital or your midwife is at the beginning of labour. And the answer is that there’s no perfect time. Bottom line: the right time to call is whenever you feel you need support.

But there are some circumstances in which you should call the hospital or midwife, including if:

  • You think your waters have broken (even if you’re not sure).
  • You are having three to four contractions in 10 minutes, and they’ve been that way for half an hour.
  • You have concerns about the baby’s movements (your baby should still be moving during labour).
  • You need or want pain relief.
  • You want an assessment or need reassurance.
  • You have fresh, red blood coming out of your vagina.

It’s never a bad thing to call when you think things are getting started so that you can be ‘on the radar’ of the hospital. The midwives can assess you over the phone (we’re good at holding a conversation with you long enough to time the contractions!), ask a few questions, and give advice on what they think is the best plan of action.

Usually, during the latent phase (early labour), the recommendation is to stay at home and ‘await events’. It’s not because we don’t want to see you, I promise! The truth is that the hormones your body produces to get labour underway (mainly oxytocin) prefer quiet, calm environments and they’re easily scared off by a car journey, for example. So we usually suggest you wait at home until the hormones are in full flow and your contractions have become more regular.

However, if you have a particularly long latent phase, or you’ve been awake for a long time, or you feel you need more support, still call no matter what your contractions are doing. We’re here to support and reassure you. Simple as that.